If you want a sure fire way to quickly transform your mental game – you need to develop a personalized Alter Ego.
This strategy is not about putting fixed labels on who you are as a person.
Rather it is about creating a narrative about how you want to show up on the field of play.
Credit to my coach and mentor Todd Herman for writing the book: The Alter Ego Effect and helping bring more simplicity and creativity to the mental game.
Unfortunately most sport psychology strategies are:
As an athlete you don’t want to be out on the field of play trying to remember to use positive self talk, thought stopping, breathing exercises and re-framing situations.
These strategies won’t get you repeatable and reliable results, instead they just give you more things to think about, when what you need to do is think less.
You want to keep it simple and just play your game.
Therefore, you need practical and personalized strategies that work for you.
That’s exactly what you get in our 1-2 punch of the Reset Routine and Alter Ego.
Here are the 3 steps to creating a personalized Alter Ego:
Think of the Alter Ego strategy as creating two contrasting narratives.
On one side you have your worst self, your shadow self, or your comfortable self. This is the self that holds you back, that plays safe, and that worries about what other people think.
On the other side you have your heroic self, your best self, or your courageous self. This is the self that embraces the moment, that is confident in their capabilities, and attacks the game.
My favorite way that Todd Herman explains these contrasting narratives is that the Heroic Self is the true-self while the Shadow Self is the false-self.
True-Self vs False-Self
A common misconception is your shadow self is the real you and you need to become your heroic self.
This is very limiting because you are seeing yourself and the real you as less than, and you need to add traits and become something you are not.
However, the reality is you have the heroic traits already within you and that is the true you.
Todd uses Superman and Clark Kent as an example. Who is the true-self vs the false-self? The reality is that Superman is always there and sometimes he ‘holds himself back’ to fit in or play small.
This is an important frame when doing this exercise. This makes your Alter Ego more about letting go of the limiting beliefs and the narratives holding you back so you can allow yourself to be the true version of yourself.
The next important part of developing this contrast is to identify the field of play and specifically the moments of impact.
The Moments of Impact
Identifying your key moments of impact is crucial to making your Alter Ego simple yet powerful.
You should pick 3 to 5 moments that have the biggest impact on your performance.
Examples of common key moments of impact for athletes include:
- Before the game – channeling your nerves
- Taking the big shot – being confident and letting it happen
- Transitioning to offense – getting into attack mode
- Dealing with adversity – bouncing back and staying resilient
- Creating offense – being creative yet having a killer instinct
- Playing defense – staying calm yet ferocious
For racing sports like swimming, biking, and running – the key moments are often broken up into their race plan, for example:
- Before the race – channel your nerves
- The start of the race – attack your race
- No man’s land – embrace the grind
- Preparing for the finish – commit to your plan
- The final stretch – relentlessly race your race
Note, this strategy can be transformative for other areas of life as well – whether you are a surgeon, a business executive, student, or parent – follow these steps to activate your best self in any area of life.
Now that you have your three to five key moments of impact identified, you want to create contrasting traits for each of those key moments.
There are numerous ways to go about doing this. One of the more thorough and traditional ways is to break down the fundamental thoughts, feelings, focus, actions and results for both your heroic self and worst self in each moment of impact.
By flushing this all out you are creating a stark contrast from which you can identify the unique traits you don’t want versus the ones you do want in each moment of impact.
Because we have done this exercise so many times we have been able to create a diagram representing the general make up for most high performance identities.
To be clear, no two Alter Egos or performance identities will be the same.
Each person will have a different variation in the moments of impact.
And even when two people might have the same moment of impact, how they want to show up in that moment will be unique.
So the diagram below is not meant to be used as a cookie cutter way to create your Alter Ego, but rather to help you quickly identify key traits and create a ‘balanced’ performance identity that works for you.
We use the word balance to help prevent you from over-indexing too much on any one trait or moment of impact.
For example, the diagram below has a blue side that represents being cool, calm and collected – the ice. Versus a red side that represents being competitive, confident and relentless – the fire. The ideal mindset always has a little combination of both Fire and Ice.
If you over-index on the fire and relentlessness, then you will likely burn too hot and not have the patience and adaptability needed for elite performance.
If you over-index on staying calm and collected, then you will likely be too cold and not have the competitiveness and relentlessness needed for elite performance.
Note the diagram uses the colour green to represent being centered and grounded. As well as yellow to represent the love of the game.
Again, this process should be personalized to both you and your key moments of impact.
The diagram above can be used to help you quickly and effectively identify your contrasting traits.
After clarifying your unique contrasting traits for each key moment of impact, then you are ready to move on to step two – being creative.
This is where the magic of the process comes out.
One of our most powerful tools as humans is our imagination.
When you personalize your Alter Ego with a sense of creativity and playfulness you optimize your ability to achieve Consistent Elite Performance.
It might seem a little weird, but you should try it out – because it works!
The goal of this step is to turn the two contrasting narratives from step 1 into a unique identity that clicks.
Superheroes and Inspiring People
The quickest way to get started is to think of your favorite superhero. If you don’t have one, then think of someone that inspires you – it could be a relative, famous athlete, public figure, or tv show character etc.
You might even have two or more people you lean on to help create your Alter Ego. The more creative and playful you are in this process – the better.
The person or people you pick should represent the traits you identified in step 1.
For example a hockey goalie that resonates with Batman could see the overlap as such:
- Before the game/the battle – he is calm and collected
- Taking shots against/in the fight – he is agile and trusts himself
- After adversity/gets knocked down – he gets back up
Tell a Story to Make it Click
The goal is to make the Alter Ego click for you – where you get this feeling “ah yah I get it.”
Stories are the best way to evoke this kind of emotion and feeling.
Create a story for each moment of impact to pull out your desired trait through your chosen superhero or inspiring person.
For instance, I’ll continue the goalie and Batman example:
The process personalizes your Alter Ego to a narrative that resonates with you.
Naming Your Alter Ego
Now that you have a narrative, you should creatively name both your heroic and worst-self Alter Egos.
The name helps summarize the narrative – it turns it into its own unique persona.
It can also be fun and helpful to create a tagline for your Alter Ego.
Again you should be creative, playful, and tap into the power of your imagination – there is no right or wrong way to do this.
One of the most famous and powerful examples is Kobe Bryant’s Alter Ego – The Black Mamba, which my mentor Todd Herman helped him create.
You want to be creative in the process just like Kobe. For example, one of my Olympic level kayakers created the Alter Ego the Lean Lion: with the tagline the Elk Killer. Her whole narrative and race plan is about the Lion attacking and chasing down the Elk.
Don’t forget to also name the worst-self Alter Ego. It helps personify the worst-self traits and narrative.
The contrast between your best-self versus your worst-self Alter Egos creates a clear choice for how you will show up at any given moment.
The Totem – Connecting it to Your Reset Routine
The last piece of being creative is choosing a totem to represent your Alter Ego.
Ideally this is tied into your personalized reset routine.
This helps further play on the power of your imagination and brings something tangible to help you activate your Alter Ego.
Specifically, as Todd Herman explains, the totem activates the power of clothed cognition. Which means wearing a piece of certain clothing helps activate the traits related to it.
For example give a kid a:
- Batman costume they become more resilient
- Lab coat they become more diligent
- Painters hat they become more creative
Select your favorite piece of equipment or a piece of jewelry you might wear with significant meaning to you – then associate it with your Alter Ego.
For example, a goalie might have a bat painted on his helmet – then they tap their helmet at the end of their reset routine to help activate their Alter Ego.
Check out the full video on creating a reset routine to combine these two strategies and create a powerful 1-2 punch.
The last step in creating your personalized Alter Ego is literally drawing it out on a map.
This step is crucial to simplifying your Alter Ego. You want to be able to boil it down so it is easy to understand yet still holds a powerful narrative that clicks for you.
Drawing it out on a map helps add another layer of tangibility to the process.
You can see clearly how you want to show up in the various key moments of impact on your field of play. You can color code it and use it as a cheat sheet summary of your Alter Ego.
The goal here is to keep it simple – it should not be over complicated or have too many words.
Here is map from the goalie and batman example we have been using:
The bottom line is you can get transformational results by adding simplicity and creativity to your mental game.
To summarize follow these 3 steps to create your personalized Alter Ego:
- Develop a Contrast
- Be Creative
- Map It Out
Please share this with anyone you think could benefit.
If you are interested in getting one of our Mental Performance Coaches to help you build your Alter Ego – just click the button below to get started.